Written by Scott Taylor
Do you ever wonder if you would deny Jesus? I will not lie, as a young teenager I had an overactive imagination at the height of the Cold War. This imagination had no problem visualizing jack boots, coming into the church, and dragging people out demanding, “Denounce Jesus or ….” (ominous music playing). Frightening thought, but what would you do?
During Easter, Peter’s denial of Jesus sometimes feels like a subplot to the Crucifixion that gets lost. So, let’s set up the story and start in John 13:34-38
“(34)A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. (35) By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (36) Simon Peter asked him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus replied, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.” (37) Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” (38) Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me? Very truly I tell you, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!”
It is so easy to go, “Oh Peter,” without really digesting what is happening here. Notice the “IF” in verse 35. Jesus knew we would struggle with loving one another. He makes it known if anyone wants to be known as disciples of Jesus, it will be because of how we love each other.
We know the rest of the story. Peter will go on and deny Jesus three times, even going so far as to lay down curses insisting, he never knew Him. The rooster crows and Peter weeps bitterly acknowledging his sin for what he has done: denied Jesus.
The New Command
In verse 34, Jesus says, “I give you a new command: Love one another. As I have loved you, so must you love one another.” Let’s be absolutely clear here; Jesus is saying, I love you so much I am going to exchange my perfect sinless life for yours. Jesus loves us so much he is going to pay our debts so we can have eternal life in fellowship with him. He then commands us to follow his example of loving sacrifice and to do the same for each other.
The message is reinforced in John chapter 15:12: “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. (13) Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” Twice Jesus uses the word “COMMAND” or “COMMANDMENT” regarding how we are to love. Seems pretty serious to me.
In Greek, the word used is Entolen, which means order, injunction, command. Jesus uses about as much verbal force as language will allow here. Every time we do not love one another in that way, we deny Jesus just as Peter did. Do we weep bitterly when we fail to do so, or kind of shrug it off with “they deserved it,” “I am just living my truth,” “I have my own problems to deal with”?
In the last year it has been pretty easy to find examples of us not loving one another as Jesus commanded. Sin has a way of finding its way into everything. Did you treat someone poorly because of a social media post they made? Or “unfriended” someone because of someone’s comment that they liked? Did your heart harden over what someone said about wearing a mask? Or not wearing a mask? Did anger rise in you because of a bumper sticker you saw on your neighbor’s car, or a sign they had in their yard? Have you grown weary and pulled yourself back from relationships because of the fear “these people” might hurt me and it just is not worth it anymore?
Ray of Hope
There is hope. Let us skip ahead in Peter’s story. Jesus has been crucified and risen from the dead and now is spending time with the disciples before his ascension to heaven. (John 21:15-17)
(15) When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”
(16) Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”
(17) The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.”
Loving one another in the way Jesus loved us is feeding Jesus’ sheep. It’s an easy trap to fall into here and go, “I am not Peter, or a disciple, or a pastor , or an elder” and therefore remove yourself from any personal obligation.
The Easter Challenge
I challenge you this Easter season to examine yourself and decide how you want to be known. I certainly have no desire to be known as the guy who has denied Jesus. When I look at myself though, I know how often I have failed in this. I am sure you have struggled too.
So, how do you want to be known? Is it as the person with the longest streak on YouVersion Bible app? Do you want to be known for watching every Livestream and COVID 1900? It is not as though these are bad habits, what matters is the reason you do them. I encourage reading and studying your bible and being prayerful privately and in community. However, I challenge you to go one step further. Let us commit to loving like Jesus did; a love so great that He was willing to endure the cross for me and you.